Sewing Processes: Materials & Techniques

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  • 0:04 Sewing Process
  • 1:22 Materials
  • 2:57 Techniques
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

There are many ways to be creative with fabric, including sewing colorful clothing, pillows and stuffed animals. In this lesson, we'll explore the materials and techniques used in sewing.

Sewing Process

Have you ever replaced a button when it fell off a favorite shirt? If so, then you have experienced sewing. Sewing is the process of using a needle and thread to connect pieces of fabric or attach them to fabric surfaces. It's a practical skill used to make or repair clothing. It can also function as a creative outlet. Today sewing is done by hand or on a sewing machine, electric equipment that makes the process quick and efficient.

Besides clothing, sewing is used to make quilts, bed covers made of layers and pieces of fabric and insulated with batting. Quilts can be decorated using several sewing processes, including appliqué, in which small pieces of cloth are sewn onto a fabric backing to form a design. Other sewing methods include embroidery, in which thick colorful threads are used to create designs and images on fabric surfaces.

Sewing isn't the only textile process that uses needles. A related process called knitting uses two large needles to loop and connect continuous pieces of fibers or yarn to make things like sweaters and scarves.

Now, let's learn about some materials and techniques used in sewing. For the purpose of this lesson, we'll focus on sewing by hand.


Before beginning a sewing project, you'll need several basic tools. In addition to fabric, two of the most important are a needle and thread.

Sewing needles are long, thin objects with a small eye, or hole, at one end and a sharp point on the other for piercing the fabric. They're typically made of metal. The process of inserting the thread through the eye is where the phrase ''threading the needle'' originated.

Needles come in many sizes and types. A regular sewing needle, sometimes called a sharp, is typically used for general hand sewing. Other types of needles include embroidery needles. These have large eyes to accommodate thicker threads and rather blunt ends so they don't pull on the heavy fabric backings used for embroidery projects.

Threads are thin strands of fiber used to sew pieces of fabric together or to create decorative work on fabric surfaces. Examples include polyester thread, an all-purpose, commonly used material used for hand and machine sewing. Embroidery thread consists of multiple strands twisted together for a thick, soft feel. It comes in brilliant colors and is used to create designs and images on fabric. Metallic thread is made of thin filaments that are gold or silver in color. Metallic threads can add flair to costumes and other textile goods.

Other sewing materials include a thimble, a small metal cover that fits on the finger and protects it while you push the needle through the fabric. They also include a pair of scissors and a pin cushion on which to store items like needles and straight pins.


Before you start to sew, you'll need to cut a manageable piece of thread from the spool and feed it through the eye of your needle. Then tie a knot at the end. This will hold your thread in place as you sew. Now, you're ready to stitch. We can't cover all of the stitches people have devised over the course of textile history, but let's take a look at a few.

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